Free Peru presidential candidate. Pedro Castillo dio un mitin en el distrito de Socota, en Cajamarca antes de viajar a Cutervo. Foto: Aldair Mejia/La República.
Peru was faced with two extremes, and many were uhappy that a moderate candidate did not make the run-off. Peruvians had the choice of electing the first socialist in its history, Pedro Castillo, 51, or a criminal and steadfast neoliberal capitalist, Keiko Fujimori, daughter of former President Alberto Fujimori, sentenced to prison for 25 years.
Pedro Castillo, representing the Marxist-oriented Peru Libre (Free Peru) party, squeaked by with 50.206% to Fuerza Popular (Popular Force) candidate, K. Fujimori, who took 49.794%. Castillo has 71,764 votes more than his rival. 18,576,753 people voted of the registered 25,193,971.
In the April 11 general election, Castillo led the race of 18 candidates with 19% of the voters. He had never engaged in parliamentary politics. Keiko Fujimori, a congresswoman from 2011-16, took second place with 13.36%. She had come in second place in two presidential elections. In 2011, she barely lost to Ollanta Humala with 51.5%. In 2016, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski squeaked by with 50.12% of the voters.
(See background piece to run-off and the candidates: Peru Election: Close Race Between Left and Right – This Can’t Be Happening! (thiscantbehappening.net)
From the start of counting the votes following 12 hours of casting ballots last Sunday, who leads has been nip and tuck. One or the other candidate had led by from 0.1 to 2% of votes.
Since the vote is so close, most likely Keiko Fujimori will contest the election.
Following a short-held lead by Pedro Castillo, Keiko Fujimori led in urban areas by one to two percent. She held the lead throughout Sunday counting, and early Monday as well. Later in the day with more rural votes counted, the tide turned in Castillo’s favor. Fujimori then claimed that his party had “distort[ed] or delay[ed] results that reflect the will of the people.” How this was to have happened was not forthcoming, but she called upon her supporters to protest. Keiko Fujimori acusa al partido de Castillo de “estrategia” para “distorsionar los resultados” (cnn.com)
Peru’s currency (sol) “headed to its biggest drop in more than a decade and the S&P/BVL Peru General Index fell as much as 5.8%, the most since November, with mining companies and financial firms among the hardest hit. Overseas bonds were steady in light trading while the cost to insure against a default edged higher…after investor favorite Keiko Fujimori saw her early lead over leftist opponent Pedro Castillo fade overnight and in the early morning. With almost 93% of votes counted [Sunday morning], Fujimori had 50.1% support to 49.9% for Castillo, a former school teacher turned union organizer from the Peruvian highlands. Castillo traded places once 94% were counted: 50.07 to Fujimori’s 49.92%.” Peru Stocks, Sol Plunge With Presidential Vote Too Close to Call (yahoo.com) Peru’s presidential runoff election too close to call (beaumontenterprise.com)
While Fujimori won every district in Lima’s capital region, the unionist teacher and former farmer, whose parents are analphabet peasants, is overwhelmingly supported in the countryside. Castillo stands for reforming the economy with greater state control over markets and natural resources; ending or curtailing mining; a 30% cut for public works and social welfare from corporation profits gained from the use of fossil fuels; and increasing pensions and wages. Fujimori wants more of the same “free market economy”, and spreads fear of “communism” taking over the country internally.
The corporations and White House favorite was also supported by middle and upper class city women, simply because she is a woman. Fujimori was backed by celebrities, wealthy players on the national soccer team, and the nation’s most famous author, former communist sympathizer turned extreme conservative, Mario Vargas Llosa. The nobel literature prize winner even campaigns for her without regrets for her criminality and that of her father. For him, she is the best of the “lesser of evils”.
Fear of Violence Influences Election Campaign
National Elections Board chairman Jorge Luis Salas stated that there were 166 international observers and 1,4000 Transparency Civil Association observers monitoring the voting process.
“Conditions for reasonable and transparent elections are in place,” Salas added. Peru: Election board reaffirms transparency in election, asks to wait for official results | News | ANDINA – Peru News Agency
In addition, tens of thousands of police and soldiers patrolled throughout the land. They reported no incidences of chaos or violence. There were, however a few hundred reports of bringing candidate propaganda into voting areas.
Nevertheless, pro-Fujimori elite backers dirtied the last days of the campaign attempting to connect a massacre of 18 people to the non-politician, man of the people, Pedro Castillo.
A revived Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso), using the name Communist Party of Peru, was apparently involved in a massacre two weeks ago. Eighteen civilians, including eight women and two children, were shot or hacked to death at Vraem, in the country’s heartland.
Details of what actually happened have not yet been published in Peru. Authorities say some 500 guerrillas control much of the area where they lord over cocaine production. They demanded that there be no voting, especially spreading fear about voting for “traitor Keiko Fujimori”.
Corporations and the mass media used this calamity to further smear the campaign of Free Peru’s party candidate Pedro Castillo, while Keiko Fujimori, Peru Force party candidate, said that as president she would assure that “communism does not occur in Peru”. Vraem: Ministerio Público abre investigación por asesinato de 18 personas en presunto ataque terrorista | ACTUALIDAD | TROME
Castillo expressed solidarity with the families.
The most read social medium in Peru, wayka.pe, with 1.5 million daily hits, writes of how this election-of-the-century is saturated with fear messages, especially those by businesses spreading the witch-hunt cry of “communism” on outdoor panels, store windows, on vehicles and in advertizements.
Elecciones 2021: Fake news y psicosociales – Wayka
The capitalist-U.S.-fossil fuel favorite is also supported by national celebrites, wealthy players on the national soccer team, and the nation’s most famous author, former communist sympathizer turned extreme conservative, Mario Vargas Llosa. The nobel literature prize winner even campaigns for her without any conditions or regrets for her criminality and that of her father.
Wayka wrote that this election will be remembered for “citizen polarization, the psycho-socials, the false news and the fear campaigns that have been deployed at the national level to direct the vote towards the presidential candidate…” Keiko Fujimori, who is under judicial investigation for money laundering, obstruction of justice, illegal association, perjury in court, and leading a criminal organization. The Prosecutor’s Office requests 30 years in prison if she is found guilty.
Some political science experts expected that if former President Alberto Fujimori’s daughter won, she would have endeavored to quash the indictments against her, for which she has served 15 months in preventative custody and is currently out on house arrest. Keiko Fujimori declared that if elected president she would have pardoned her father, who has served a half a 25-year sentence for massive corruption, taking bribes, and for his role in ordering the murder of 25 persons by a secret death squads whose killers were military men.
For the business elite, and its media, the only real danger to “democracy”, as they say, is Pedro Castillo. All the corruption, bribes, swindles, murders compare not when confronting socialism aiming to equalize rights and benefits, end military “solutions” to struggles against poverty and injustices, to the endless wars.
In the last days of this campaign, both candidates concentrated on promising total battle against the corona virus, which has taken 186,073 Peruvian lives. Peru leads the world in percentage of deaths per capita: 572.3 per 100,000. Of its 33.3 million population, nearly two million have been infected. The country closest to deaths per 100,000 population is Hungary with 305.
Peru’s ethnic makeup (self-identified) is 60% mestizo; ca. 27% indigenous, 85% of them are Quechas, the remainder Aymaras and Amazonians; ca. 5% white, ca. 2% black/mulatto, 6.7% others.
Voting is mandatory in Peru for all persons 18 to 70. There are 25,193,971 registered voters. Turnout at 77%, lower than 82%, in 2016. Those caught not voting pay either 22, 44, or 88 sols ($5.50, $11, $22) for the poorest to those not poor. In 2019, the average monthly income per capita was 1,035. The poorest has only 278 sols. A fine for the poorest is eight percent of that.
The poor and the rich throughout Latin America will be watching to see what this feisty farmer-teacher-union will attempt to accomplish as a socialist president. Wall Street is watching too.
RON RIDENOUR is a US-born journalist and anti-war activist living in Denmark. He is a member of www.thiscantbehappening.net His books, “The Russian Peace Threat: Pentagon on Alert” and ‘Winding Brook Stories’ are available at Amazon and Lulu. His other work can be found at ronridenour.com; email@example.com